Perpendicular Expression of a Horizontal Desire

Just when you think you know yourself, just when you feel like you’ve seen and felt it all, that nothing could surprise you, something comes up and it changes the whole dynamic. Describing Eric as a cynic would be the understatement of the century. He was a caustic, bitter, and sarcastic thirty-year-old going about his life like a clumsy fool, tripping on the various hurdles that life’s journey threw at him. In his three decades on this planet, Eric had seen various facets of the drama that life offered – death, grief, love, heartbreak; you name it, he had seen it. Eric was someone who had very rigid notions about the world, which he believed to be absolute truths because they were based on his real-life experiences. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, some things just change the game.

Angela wasn’t a stranger. Eric had known her for over a year, having connected with her through a dating site. She was someone who’d fascinated our protagonist right from the beginning but thanks to their busy schedules, contradicting views about courtship and other distractions, they had managed to drift apart and never actually meet each other. So one day, when Eric was nursing a broken heart and feeling a rather existential level of loneliness, a sudden text from Angela felt a little serendipitous.  They chatted for a while and quickly reconnected over a shared love for language, literature, and culture. Long conversations ranging from life experiences to critical breakdown of TV show characters marked their interactions over the next few weeks. 

All of this sounds really perfect, doesn’t it? Well, it nearly was. Except for the fact that Eric was actually going through a divorce that had been dragging on because of some complications. He hadn’t hidden this bit of information from Angela, but somehow it had been lost in communication in the previous year. So when Eric casually mentioned the divorce during a conversation, Angela’s shocked reaction confused him. To his dismay, Angela quickly informed him that while she sympathized with his situation, she had a strict rule about not dating people with complicated relationship status. Eric’s heart sank because he had almost come to the conclusion that he was ready to date again. Of course, they hadn’t officially spoken about dating, so in theory, they were just talking as friends. 

Eric respected Angela’s wish but he told her that he found her attractive and it really sucked that they couldn’t take it any further. They kept talking on text and calls while deciding against meeting each other. Angela didn’t want any confusing meet-ups and Eric obliged. But they liked talking to each other because of the level of comfort the two shared. Eric would occasionally flirt a little while Angela pretended like she didn’t notice it. With no possibility of anything real ever existing between them, Eric in theory should have started losing interest in Angela by now, but in reality, things were moving pretty differently. He wasn’t sure if it was the “forbidden fruit” effect or pure luck that was driving him closer and closer to Angela  emotionally. He couldn’t stop thinking about her. And this, while they hadn’t even met physically, which made it feel oddly outlandish.

Did I mention Eric couldn’t stop thinking about Angela? 

People usually have these virtual yardsticks by which they measure their relationships, feelings, etc. In Eric’s case, he usually judged any relationship based on three levels of compatibility – emotional, physical, and intellectual. He would usually hold off on judging any relationship until he had tested it out in the above-mentioned scale of comparison. But all of these notions were failing constantly with Angela. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t met. It didn’t matter that she didn’t see him as a potential partner. It didn’t matter that these feelings were unrequited. Eric found himself unable to resist her charm, even as his mind told him that perilous and treacherous roads lay ahead on his path. No rational thought held any weight in front of that deep quivering longing he’d started feeling for Angela. 

And while she hadn’t provoked this in any way, Eric’s heart told him that she was bound to at least feel his plight. It is worth mentioning at this point that the two of them had never met in person. So, all of the attraction Eric felt for Angela was based on their conversations, the intellectual connection he shared with her, and the emotional connection he felt with her. He had a very vague idea about what Angela looked like. And it didn’t seem to matter to his heart. Eric would have never believed that he could feel for someone without even meeting them. He’d once laughed at the premise of a movie which had shown two people falling in love over letters exchanged. But now, it seemed plausible to him. 

Emotions are usually evoked by things through their presence. In Eric’s case, twice the amount of emotions were being evoked by Angela’s absence. Let me try to explain that. They texted and he felt happy. But when there weren’t any texts from Angela, just going through their conversations and looking at her profile picture and anticipating a text from her when she showed up online made Eric’s day. They talked over calls and that made Eric happy, but when the calls were over, the sheer excitement produced by the interaction carried Eric through the day, with him reminiscing and fixating on every word spoken by Angela that seemed remotely caring and concerned. Angela’s eyes in that profile picture she put up looked so hauntingly beautiful that Eric didn’t sleep that night, just imagining looking into her eyes. 

It’s worth mentioning at this point that Eric wasn’t letting on the extent of his feelings to her and only communicated a bit of it when he couldn’t contain it. And every time, to avoid breaking his heart, Angela just told him there was “no future there”. And every time he heard that his heart broke; shattered into several little pieces. He scowled and cribbed to her about how unfair the whole situation was. She, of course, saw it as a guy being stubborn rather than what it really was – a guy so hopelessly smitten that he couldn’t imagine not being around her. 

One evening, when Angela sent him a picture of herself flaunting braided hair and a mysterious smile, Eric’s heart skipped several beats. He spent the rest of the evening looking at the picture of Angela’s face. His heart rose and fell along the curve of her cheeks as they curled over her lips to form a smile, which was painfully understated. He kept looking at her lashes, the texture of her skin, and her shiny little lips. He couldn’t remember ever looking at anyone with such a devoted gaze as he now did with Angela’s picture. And his heart kept racing in his chest as if he half expected her picture to come to life. He noticed her brows, her braids and her radiance as the light reflected by her skin made it shine at places. He couldn’t remember ever feeling the warmth that he felt for Angela as heard her voice when she called. Their conversations would leave him immensely satiated and simultaneously longing for more of it. 

And the crazy thing was that somewhere in his heart, Eric believed that Angela felt something for him too. She spoke to him, with what he perceived as affection, and could easily just be politeness. Her voice had caught him off guard the first time they’d spoken to each other. She sounded different than he’d expected and yet so familiar like he’d known the voice since forever. And when she laughed, it sent waves of contentment through Eric’s body. And these feelings were like these clouds Eric was floating on. He was always thinking about her but made efforts not to bother her too much by texting all the time. The rapture these feelings brought with them was addictive. Eric’s heart would flutter every time Angela texted. 

Even with the future of his feelings for her being so atrociously uncertain, Eric’s heart was so busy basking in its glory that he couldn’t be bothered to care. While a part of him assured Eric that Angela would warm up to him eventually, another part told him that he’d have his heart broken so hard that he’d never recover. Eric was so indifferent to the possible outcome of his feelings for Angela that he hadn’t a clue about how he wanted life if Angela ended up being with him. The upside of this was that he hadn’t given the other possibility much thought either. All he knew was that she was growing on him exponentially and nothing could change that. It felt like the makings of one of those bittersweet tragedies, whose endings are usually changed in movie adaptations to appease the audiences. 


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